A Homily for Monday in the Week of Advent I
Framed and Based on the Second of Part of the Edwardian Homily on Salvation
Preached at the Trinity College Chapel
Monday, November 29th, 2010
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves (after Archbishop Thos. Cranmer)
Text: Matthew 8:5-13
(Scriptural References are from the Great Bible of 1539)
Dear friends in Christ, ye have heard how all men ought to seek their justification and righteousness, and how this righteousness commeth unto men by Christ’s death and merits. As good Christian folk ye shall also know that three things are required to the obtaining of our righteousness, that is, God’s mercy, Christ’s justice, and a true and lively faith out of the which faith springeth good works. Yet, ye shall also be aware dear friends, that no man can be justified by his own good works, that no man fulfilleth the law, according to the full request of the law.
These things are of course also attested by St. Paul in both his epistle to the Church in Galatia and in the epistle written to the church in Ephesus. After this wise, to be justified only by this true and lively faith in Christ, speaketh all the old and ancient authors, including Hilary, Basil, and Ambrose. Yet even as these good and ancient authors attesteth (and many more are there to be numbered amongst them) that we are justified by faith, nevertheless, this is not so meant of them, that that the said justifying faith is alone in man, without true repentance, hope, charity, dread, and the fear of God, at any time and season. Nor when they say, that we be justified freely, they mean not that we should or might afterwards be idle, and nothing thereafter required of our part. But this saying, that we be justified by faith only, freely, and without works, is spoken for to take away clearly all merit of our works, as being able to deserve justification at God’s hands, and thereby mostly plainly to express the weakness of man and the goodness of God. This faith the holy scripture teacheth us; this is the strong rock and foundation of Christian religion; this doctrine all old and ancient authors of Christ’s church do approve and setteth for the true glory of Christ, and beateth down the vainglory of man.
Hence we consider that centurion of old, of whom we learn in eighth chapter of St. Matthew, who besought our Lord in consideration of the burthen he knew in the suffering of his servant who lyeth at home sick of the palsye, greviously pained. That dear centurion, having a throrough and full understanding of his own unworthiness before our Lord, pleadeth unto him with such humility, “Syr, I am not worthy, that thou shuldest come under my rofe; but speake the worde only and my servaunt shall be healed.”
What greater humility was ever known in one man than the humility of this centurion who was not a son of Israel? Yet this man understood that our Lord has ordered all things mightily and in an orderly fashion when he said, “For I also my selfe am a man subject to the aucthoryte of another; and have soudiers under me, and I saye to this man, go, he goeth: to another come, and he cometh, and to my servaunt do this and he doeth it.” Our Lord, having been moved by such sensible and true words, marveled and sayd to them them that followed hym: “Verily, I saye unto you I have not founde so great fayth in Israel. I say unto you that men shal come from the eest and west, and shall rest with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kyngdome of heaven.”
With the eyes of God’s mercy and through the merits of Christ’s justice, our Lord gazed upon the countenance of the centurion of old and drew forth from the well of his soul the waters of a true and lively faith such that not only the centurion knew, that day, the mercy and justice of the Lord, but so too, the servant gripped by the palsye, and indeed the whole retinue, knew and tasted the salvation of our God. Thus, being sent upon his way, the centurion, knew the justifying strength of our Lord to heal and to save.
But think not, dear friends that such a justification was wrought by any righteousness on the part of the centurion, but rather hold fast to the truth that justification is not the office of man but of God. The faith of the centurion directed him only to the Lord and the wideness of his mercy. Meditate thoroughly on the story of the centurion and you will find that ye too, indeed all present, although we hear God’s word, and believe it; although we have faith, hope and charity, repentance, dread and fear of God within us, and do never so many works thereunto; yet we must renounce the merit of all our said virtues, as weak and insufficient, and trust only in God’s mercy as that centurion did.
The centurion knew whereof he spake, although he commandeth others, he knew that he liveth under the sovereignty of another and that no good work should raise him from his post to command those things wereof he had no authority to command. To such an end, our Lord saw no faith equal to his in Israel and in such a faith the wideness of God’s mercy was thereby known that “many shall come from eest and west to … to rest with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kyngdome of heaven.” The work of man justifieth not, and the wideness of God’s justice and mercy knoweth not the boundary of nations. Trust only in God’s mercy, and that sacrifice which our high priest and Saviour, Christ Jesus, the son of God, once offered upon the cross, to obtain thereby God’s grace and remission, as well of our original sin in baptism, as of all actuall sin committed in us after our baptism, if we truly repent, and turn unfeignedly to him again.
Even so, as great and good and as godly a virtue as the lively faith is, yet it putteth us from itself, and remitteth or appointeth us unto Christ (as it did the centurion), for to have only, by our Lord, remission of our sins, or justification. So that our faith in Christ saith unto us thus: It is not I that take away your sins, but it is Christ only; and to him only I send you for that purpose, forsaking therein all your good virtues, words, thoughts, and works, and only putting your trust in Christ.